Art News & Views

In between – from Vadodara

Deciphering desires: works of K.K. Muhamed

K.K.Muhamed passed out from Santineketan from the Department of Printmaking in 1996. He later continued doing print making for two years in Kanoria Art Center, Ahmedabad. Later he shifted to Baroda and started painting from the year 2001-2. At present he is working on his videos and sculptures which would be part of the solo show he is planning.

“Protest works in different ways. One is direct. You can shout, it works in different level. The other is silently you can do something, like the examples of good poetry and texts becoming some very significant protest. So other than going out and shouting, I am thinking about a certain image which speaks more than that. In itself it should have a power to generate an argument. For me that is very important, to generate something as a part of discourse”- K.K.Muhamed during his interview.

Muhamed's images are about desire. But they are not about his individual desires but are about the very structure in the society which creates conditions for the production of desire itself. Excavating through the historical and mythological archives of knowledge, the images unearth the genealogy of the violence as we experience today.

His work utilizes the strategy of reversals in myriad ways. They are reversals of the classical vision as well as reversals in the meanings. The painting induces viewer towards a 'classicism', but every time the viewer is pushed back again to the surface or the foreground. This is achieved by either darkening the spaces leading to the depth or by placing images in a manner in the foreground thereby pulling back the viewer towards the surface. He uses multiple pictorial spaces and perspectives. He also uses photographic images for flattening the depth and makes everything appear on the surface. He also uses varied tactile decoration inscribed over the body of different objects and structures. He deliberately keep his viewers away from the trip to transcendence as in renaissance paintings, but each time things bounce back on the ground. This questions the 'grand' promises of achieving salvation, truth, heaven and thus attacks the very core of spiritualism.

This assist him in de-constructing the very notion of “classicism” and makes his work a site of historical memories and everyday mundane reality. The strategy of reversals is also apparent in how he de-constructs the images with fixed traditional meanings connected to them. Often images repeat in his paintings. But every time they are put in different contexts. This enables in dislocating the fixed meaning generation. In the “speaking tree” series and “desire” series he upturns the notion of spiritualism. He shows the calm peaceful tree of knowledge as volatile and aggressive organic matter. It is the haven for dangerous objects of mass destruction and violence. This could also be interpreted as an allegory of machoism and of the phalliocentric social orders and structures operating at multiple levels. He sees violent aggressive masculinity in the historical and cultural context.

The machostic male body wrapped in a traditional dhoti and wearing boots though immediately refers to the populist style statement of bollywood, dwells further as a representation of our desires. The screen like treatment which can be also read as viewers reflection of the desire for a perfect body.

The myth of narcissuses becomes for him the leitmotif and as a major aspect of self centicism in different discourses. In most of his work huge red flower with its overpowering narcissistic expression makes its presence as a major allegory. This flower is seen sometimes sprouting from an unproductive soil or interior or sometimes from a house. Almost all his works underlines the theme of narcissism and self centricism and the connected violence as a consequence. The violence is questioned as nothing but the expression of one's own guilt.

His paintings are filled with organic- machinistic objects arranged like an archive. The fragmentary bodies machinations are shown metamorphosing and are always in becoming. They are placed over the landscapes or different architectural spaces. Architecture in his work stands as an immutable grandeur of the state and its power. These structures majorly spatializes the objects by allowing them to interact within themselves and the whole. Their meaning is derived more from their spatialization.

In his book series there are about 20 books which are supposed to be displayed on the floor on a traditional stand which is used to keep religious and holy books like Bible, Quran and Gita etc. these books have similar elements as his paintings and more prominent are the objects of violence. Thus he questions the very foundation of religion and the connected human tragedies. He uses Deluzian notion of bodies without organs and desiring machines and his propogation of anti oedipalisation.

His videos can be seen as a continuation of his paintings. Here the camera moves constantly from one object to another. The objects are viewed microscopically, their textures, pores and the deep shadows. By means of visual mixing he creates a palimpsest of a culture that speaks about violence and failures. Texts like sacred violence, perfect faith, mimetic desire, madness, genesis of violence, the genealogy of violence etc occurs along with the images of fire landscape, clouds and architectural façade and interiors. Often the camera movement starts from an architectural edifice and keep moving as if hovering over a mirage with never ending pathway. Often it ceases in darkness or dark shadows at the floors of the architectural structures. Sometimes walls stands as a hurdle and obstruct an access further.

Rollie Mukherjee
Artist, Art-critic,





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